PMS and Food Cravings
A 3 minute read
What to expect
Premenstrual syndrome or PMS is something that most women experience at some level; mood swings, fatigue, irritability, and food cravings which is what I am going to touch on here. This should help you to understand and navigate the cravings you experience without feeling as frustrated as you might have done in the past.
What is happening in my body?
As you go through the phases of your cycle you have ebbs and spikes of different hormones. As levels of estrogen go up and down, so do levels of the stress hormone cortisol. When cortisol levels are high enough, the body turns on its fight-or-flight response, you become more metabolically charged and your appetite is stimulated. This, in turn, causes you to seek out carbs and fat. Most women with PMS experience a drop in serotonin levels, which triggers cravings for carbs because the body uses carbs to make serotonin. If cortisol is high and serotonin is low, you'll seek carbs and fats, but really heavy duty on the simple carbs; sugar based sweets like candy bars, cakes, cookies, etc. This is because simple sugars are metabolized faster than complex carbs, so they offer a quick serotonin fix. If cortisol is way up but serotonin is normal, you are more likely to crave a fat-carb combo without a huge sweet component, such as a big bagel laden with cream cheese or peanut butter.
How should I eat?
Try to eat as much of your carbs in complex carbohydrates as you can. Grains, lentils, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, bread, etc. Avoid processed sugar as much as you can as it will increase insulin secretion which lowers blood sugar which can increase your appetite for carbs and fats.
Eat more frequently throughout the day please to help decrease cravings simply from being hungry. Keep your protein intake high and be sure you are spacing it out through your day; it will keep you satiated longer that way.
What else can I do to help?
Aside from the nutritional approach to combating cravings, there are behavioral approaches we can apply as well. Physical exertion works for some, meaning an intense workout; for others, a head clearing walk has the same effect.
Journaling, something you will hear me talk about often, is something that I have seen so many women find comfort in over the years. This might be a nice addition for you if you are struggling and fighting cravings for food that you know is going to derail your progress. Taking a few minutes to write down how and what you are feeling as you stare at your pantry full of potential progress wreckers can very often change your perspective and therefore your behavior.
Lastly, as with everything, speak to your personal nutrition coach. If you don't have a nutrition coach, reach out to PLT Nutrition.
It’s 100% ok to talk about your cycle and the many feelings it brings, physically and emotionally.
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I'm Paul Leonard, CEO & founder of PLT Nutrition.